London's Chinatown Has a 'Dessert Alley,' and It's Paradise

Hong Kong-style egg waffles, Japanese taiyaki, Filipino ice cream stuffed into pandesal buns  — here's where to eat on this incredible stretch of London’s Chinatown.

Bubblewrap in London's Dessert Alley
Photo: Nic Crilly-Hargrave

In the heart of London's West End, steps from bustling Leicester Square and the historic theaters lining Shaftesbury Avenue, find the city's historic Chinatown. Enter through the intricate, Qing dynasty-style gate on Wardour Street to find an enclave rich with restaurants, cocktail bars, bakeries, and tea houses.

Locals and in-the-know tourists converge on popular dumpling shops and stands selling fried chicken and take-away noodles. Even if you don't go for a full meal, though, you should stay for something sweet. On a short stretch of street called Newport Court (and spilling out a little beyond), find Hong Kong-style egg waffles and filled-buns, Filipino "dirty ice cream" stuffed into sweet pandesal, and matcha soft serve from a 162-year-old Japanese tea house. It's all part of Chinatown's Dessert Alley.

London's Dessert Alley
Regan Stephens

Whether you only have time to grab a single taiyaki to go, or can gather a group and chart out an afternoon sweets crawl, read on for seven stand-out stops in Chinatown's Dessert Alley.


Taiyakiya translates to "fish waffle house" in Japanese, says Emily Foo, owner of the popular shop inspired by Japan's delicious street food. Traditional taiyaki doesn't come with ice cream, rather, the fish-shaped cakes typically come stuffed with a sweet or savory filling. Options include red bean paste, Nutella, or, one of the shop's most popular (which Foo created for the Londoners), kimchi and cheese.

Taiyakiya in London's Dessert Alley
Regan Stephens

But Taiyakiya also sells a more Instagram-friendly (but no less delicious IRL) version topped with matcha, vanilla, or black sesame soft serve. The Little Mermaid is especially splashy, festooned with a pastel-hued sugar tail and seashell sprinkles.


The bright shop draws lines for its highly customizable bubble tea in dozens of fruit tea, milk, and mousse (topped with frothy cream cheese) tea varieties. Add strawberry, mango, or brown sugar tapioca pearls, or star-shaped pineapple or grape jellies to lychee milk tea, mango green tea, roasted oolong mousse tea, or one of the dozens of other flavors.


Since it was founded by Riemon Tsuji in 1860, the Japanese heritage tea house has been a pioneer in the matcha industry. The company opened a London café in 2010, and its matcha comes in many forms nowadays: hot or cold lattes, bubble tea, tarts, and cheesecake. One of the shop's most popular orders, though, is a sundae with swirls of matcha soft serve and topped with a choice of red bean, black sesame, toasted brown rice, brown sugar syrup, roasted soybean flour, or orbs of mochi.

Mamasons in London's Dessert Alley
Nic Crilly-Hargrave

Mamasons Dirty Ice Cream

London's first Filipino ice cream parlor specializes in "dirty" ice cream, the name for traditional Filipino ice cream originally made with carabao milk in a hand-churned machine. Order a bilog, an ice cream sandwich combining flavors like calamansi, Milo (a chocolate malt drink), queso, or the mellow, soft purple-hued ube, stuffed into a warm powdered sugar-dusted pandesal. Ube brownies, iced lattes with coconut milk and house made ube syrup, and, Halo Halo — layered with shaved ice, condensed milk, coconut flakes, jellies, leche flan, and ube ice cream — are also on offer. Take a seat at one of a handful of tables inside the five-year-old shop decked in framed art, vibrant wallpaper, and neon signage.

Kova Patisserie

At Japanese-French bakery Kova, just next door to Taiyakia, find neat rows of colorful cake slices in an array of varieties and flavors. There's matcha cheesecake, durian mille crepes, and shortcake in mango or strawberry, with spongy yellow cake and thick layers of fruit-dotted cream. They'll box up a slice to go, and you can take it to one of the picnic tables situated at the intersection of Newport Court and Newport Place, under strings of red paper lanterns and flapping Union Jack flags.

Bake in London's Dessert Alley
Regan Stephens


The next two stops are located just a few steps off Newport Court, still within the enclave of Chinatown. In the window of Bake, located on Wardour Street, you can spot the waffle iron spinning out taiyaki in two-bite mini versions, custard-filled and four for about $2. The shop also sells the Nutella-filled larger-sized version, as well as an expansive wall of sweet and savory buns and rolls in flavors like lotus paste, coconut and cream, black sesame rolls, and spring onion with chicken.


Follow the scent of sizzling batter to the five-year-old Bubblewrap, London's first operation making Hong Kong-style gai daan jai, also known as bubble waffles, egg puffs, and puffles. For the uninitiated, it's a soft, custard-y waffle rolled into a cone shape to use as a vehicle for ice cream, chocolate sauce, and other sweet toppings, making all other ice cream cones seem sad in comparison. Choose from the set favorites menu — with popular combos like the Oreo Crunch with strawberry cheesecake gelato, bits of Oreo, and salted caramel — or build your own with toppings that range from fruit and nuts to matcha Kit Kats and Malteasers.

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